It’s impossible to miss when BB cries. The unsettling baby is one of the constants of Death Stranding, the latest game from Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima. BB is part equipment, part character; it remains helplessly trapped in a sci-fi jar, where it both bonds with Death Stranding’s lead character Sam, and also serves as a tool that alerts him to deadly, ghostly apparitions that are largely invisible to humans. When BB gets scared, it starts to cry. And on the game’s default setting, that anguished sound comes through the speaker built into the PS4 controller. It’s like you’re holding a tiny, crying baby in your hands. It’s incredibly unsettling at first — but when you hear the creepy thing laugh, it almost makes it worth it.
It’s hard to say what BB really is without spoiling things; and honestly, even if I fully explained it now, it wouldn’t make much sense to you. But that mystery is also part of what makes it so interesting. A large chunk of Death Stranding’s dense lore is dedicated to BBs — there’s more than just one, as they’re a fairly standard tool for travelers — and where they came from. Death Stranding’s post-apocalyptic future is one nearly devoid of history. Most records have been lost or destroyed, but as you slowly rebuild a network that links together America, more details come to light. Throughout the game, Deadman, a scientist with the exact likeness of Guillermo del Toro, regularly shares newly uncovered details about the origin of these weird little babies.
But those details aren’t incredibly important early on. What’s most notable is the alienness of it all: here you have a tiny child that lives its entire life in a liquid-filled jar, strapped to a man’s chest. BB doesn’t talk, and it doesn’t appear to eat or drink. But it does make sounds. The cries are haunting. When things get really bad — usually when one of the ghost creatures has spotted you, or when you slip down a particularly treacherous hill — it can sound like multiple babies are crying simultaneously. These moments are already stressful, as the monsters start to chase you down. The cries only amplify this; sometimes I wanted to get away not to save Sam’s life, but so I could calm BB down.
BB might be the only alert system in history that needs comfort. Imagine if you had to talk down your car alarm after a break-in. In the case of BB, at any point in the game you can disconnect the jar, put it in your arms, and rock the child, which helps calm it down. You do this by literally moving the PS4 controller back and forth, as if you were rocking a real baby, and it’ll start to coo and smile as you do. While you do this, a robotic arm on Sam’s shoulder will transform into a mobile to keep BB amused. There are also many moments when Sam will bunk down for the night in one of the various cities that still exist, and BB gets its own spot to hang on the wall and rest.
There’s no denying the entire conceit of BB — a ghost-detecting baby that lives in a jar — is strange. But these interactions with it somehow make it more human and relatable. You know it’s scared because you can hear it. There’s no way to avoid the unpleasant sound. (I wouldn’t recommend playing Death Stranding with a newborn in the house.) But the inverse is also true; when BB is happy, its excited squeals and laughter are piped through the controller in your hands. This happens during those sequences when you play with and soothe BB, but also at certain unexpected points. My favorite is that, when you drive really fast, BB gets excited and laughs. It’s a surprising, delightful moment, particularly amid the dreary and depressing world of Death Stranding.
As I mentioned in my review of the game, in some ways BB is representative of Death Stranding as a whole. It’s strange and inscrutable at first, a black box that defies explanation. But as you spend more time with both the game and the creepy baby, their human elements slowly begin to surface. After a while, they not only make a certain kind of sense, you might even grow to care about them. The obvious reason to speed through Death Stranding’s post-apocalyptic landscape is to avoid a battle with a nightmarish ghost — but for me, I hit the gas to make my little jar baby laugh.